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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaks to the heart of Madison

July 22, 2008

Tibetan Buddhist leader visits Wisconsin on eve of Beijing Olympics
Emily Mills
Isthmus Daily Page (Wisconsin, USA)
July 20, 2008

Marking his seventh visit to Wisconsin, His Holiness The 14th Dalai
Lama of Tibet spoke to a mostly packed Dane County Coliseum on
Saturday, the opening event of a week-long series of talks and
teachings in and around Madison. He arrived on Friday, and started
his visit with a consecration of a new temple at the Deer Park
Buddhist Center in the town of Oregon on Saturday morning.

The region has long enjoyed a close relationship with the Tibetan
Buddhist community. Geshe Lhundub Sopa, a tenured professor at the
UW-Madison, has been instrumental in growing the community not only
in Madison, but around the United States as well. Originally sent by
the Dalai Lama in 1962 to help bring Tibetan Buddhism to the US, Sopa
went on to found the Deer Park center in 1975. Between activities
there and the arrival of several exiled Tibetan families to Wisconsin
in 1992, the area has been visited regularly by the Dalai Lama ever since.

As the most revered figure in Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama's
message is one of compassion and peace, particularly since the
occupation of Tibet by China in 1950, just before Tenzin Gyatso was
enthroned in the position. This situation has been brought back to
the forefront of global politics once again with the approach of the
2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, set to begin in less than three
weeks. But the Dalai Lama emphasized that the International Tibet
Independence Movement makes in important distinction: "We love and
respect the Chinese people as a hard-working, cultured people. We
like the Chinese people. We do not like their government."

During his talk on Saturday, the Dalai Lama also emphasized the
importance of finding the positives in otherwise tragic situations.
He noted that the exile from his home country has allowed him to
travel the world and learn about many different religious and
cultural traditions. He is particularly interested in the sciences
and has developed relationships with several researchers, insisting
that there are many similarities between the discoveries of science
and the teachings of Buddhism, and that science and religion in
general should never be mutually exclusive.

During a short question and answer session after his talk, the Dalai
Lama was asked what the source of his strength was in the face of
trouble. His honest and straight-forward answer of "Good food, good
sleep," was met with many laughs and applause. This simple sense of
humor was present throughout his entire speech, with several
light-hearted remarks and playful gestures punctuating the
two-hour-long session.

The crowd assembled for the talk was diverse, with everyone from the
Tibetan American community to curious onlookers and even several
people from other states and nations gathering to take in the wisdom
of this self-described "simple peasant" who has led a most extraordinary life.

There was a small contingent of protestors gathered outside of the
Coliseum, but their objections weren't about the dispute with China.
Instead, they represented a small splinter sect within Tibetan
Buddhism that worships a spirit called Dolgyal (or Shugden). The
Dalai Lama has issued advice concerning this practice, warning that
it could "degenerate into a form of spirit worship" and that it has
"strong sectarian overtones." Believing that Tibetan Buddhism was
founded on and should continue to embody true non-sectarianism,
inter-religious understanding and harmony, he has come out strongly
against this practice. He did not, however, address this issue during
his talk on Saturday.

The Dalai Lama's central message was one of compassion and trust. He
emphasized the importance of giving children a nurturing environment
in which to be raised, the need for everyone to have patience, and to
always work hard to be more understanding of others. He called for
forgiveness of those who do one wrong, but added "forgiveness doesn't
mean forgetting, or accepting one's wrong-doings. In some cases, you
need confrontation to stop the wrong-doing, but it should include
concern and compassion for the wrong-doer."

Perhaps now more than ever, this message becomes particularly
important -- certainly for those working toward Tibetan autonomy or
independence, but also for a world torn by conflict at all corners.

The Dalai Lama's visit to Madison continues with several teaching
sessions throughout week, culminating with a Long Life Prayer
Offering known as Tenshug and a public celebration on Thursday, July
24 back at the Coliseum.
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